Installation Complete

After a lengthy planning process beginning in 2017, the installation of the Cantini Mosaic at its new location adjacent to the Steel Plaza T Station is now complete!

Please browse the sections below for information on the completed reinstallation, the complex history of the artwork, and the multi-tiered process of reconceptualizing this work in a new location.

See The Mosaics

The mosaic's location is in the pedestrian corridor that connects the Steel Plaza T Station to Sixth Avenue. The most direct access to the corridors is by taking the escalators down from the Steel Plaza T Station entrance on Sixth Avenue (between Fifth Avenue and Centre Avenue.) The station also has access through several other pathways: through the Steel Tower, through the BNY Mellon Center from Grant St, from the corner of Sixth Avenue and Ross Street, or by taking the T there from another station. From the station the mosaic corridor is found to the southeast. The T Station is open from 5am - midnight.

Installation Images

Interpretive Panels

A set of three interpretive panels were installed alongside the mosaic. These provide information about Virgil Cantini and his artistic process, as well as about the complicated history of the original location of the mosaics in the Lower Hill, a site that had undergone massive redevelopment in the 1950s, displacing thousands of residents and hundreds of businesses.

The panels can be seen below, or read their text in it's entirety here: Interpretive Panel Text.

Reinstallation Project History

The Cantini Mosaic is a public art installation created by Virgil Cantini in 1964, originally installed in a pedestrian underpass beneath Bigelow Boulevard near Chatham Street in Pittsburgh’s Central Business District. It consists of 28 abstract sculptural mosaic panels, designed as two sections of 14 panels, made of cast concrete and glass tiles. The panels were intentionally installed in a deliberate order and arrangement for people passing through in either direction.

The art piece was commissioned by the Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority specifically for the pedestrian underpass as a part of the Lower Hill Redevelopment program.

Cantini Mosaic

The Cantini Mosaics in their original location, © Kaela Speicher Photography.

In 2017, the City of Pittsburgh approved plans for the "Cap" Project, a new three-acre public space spanning a structure over a portion of the I-579 Crosstown Boulevard. This project was funded by a federal grant given to the City of Pittsburgh, partnering with the Sports and Exhibition Authority. The area to be affected by this project included the site of the Cantini Mosaic. Final designs for the Cap Project, shown at the November 2017 Art Commission hearing, can be found here. This presentation included a courtesy review of the Cantini Mosaic.

Soon after, a group of preservationists contacted the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office (PA SHPO) about their interest in saving the mosaics. Due to the federal funding in place for the I-579 CAP Project, the Section 106 consultation process was initiated. Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act requires that federal agencies assess the effects of projects or permits on historic properties. Determining if a property is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) is one of the steps in the consultation process.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), delegated to manage the Section 106 process on behalf of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), invited individuals to create the Consulting Parties to help inform the NRHP eligibility review. Based on the original information submitted, PennDOT determined that the Cantini Mosaic Tunnel did not meet the criteria to be eligible for the NRHP. Later, the Consulting Parties provided additional information regarding the Cantini Mosaic Tunnel’s historical significance and in May 2018, FHWA and PA SHPO agreed that the Tunnel is eligible for listing in the NRHP as a public works project of high artistic value.

As a result, PennDOT (on behalf of the FHWA) determined that the demolition and removal of the Cantini Mosaic Tunnel would have an adverse effect, and developed a programmatic agreement to resolve the adverse effects. This agreement outlines the requirement for the removal of the mosaic and its eventual relocation within five years. In late 2018, the agreement was signed by the City of Pittsburgh, the Sports and Exhibition Authority, FHWA, PA SHPO, and the Consulting Parties.

As part of the programmatic agreement, the signatories developed a “Character Defining Features” document to guide the identification and evaluation of potential locations for the reinstallation of the Cantini Mosaic. These guiding principles include:

  • Publicly accessible (ideally in a City-owned space)
  • Highly traveled pedestrian corridor
  • Two vertical walls, of at least approximately 60’ in length and 8’ high
  • Covered for protection from the elements
  • Lighting to maximize reflectivity, through a potential combination of natural light, reflected light, and projected light

In April 2019, the Mosaic panels were removed and placed into City storage. Later that year, the tunnel was demolished to begin construction of the Cap.

In late 2020 E. Holdings, Inc was engaged by the City of Pittsburgh as a consultant and project coordinator to guide the process of identifying a new location for the reconceptualization of the Mosaic.

During a public comment period, feedback was gathered from the public regarding potential reinstallation sites. A meeting to review potential sites for the relocation and reconceptualization of the Mosaic was held on August 2, 2021 at 11am via Zoom.

The presentation from the meeting can be found at this link, and below you can find a video recording of the meeting as well as the question and answer session.

The most viable site, in keeping with the guiding principles, was determined to be the pedestrian corridor adjacent to the Steel Plaza T Station. As a piece of the City of Pittsburgh's collection of public art, that location was approved by the Art Commission in July 2022. That application can be found here.

As planning for this relocation continued, conservation work was conducted on the panels themselves by McKay Lodge Fine Art Conservation Laboratory. This extensive work including structural repairs, remounting, and fine detail cleaning of the tiny glass tiles (called tesserae). Some of the missing tesserae were replaced with pieces from Cantini's own surplus supplies, provided by his family.

In preparation for the mosaics, the pedestrian corridor underwent a full renovation, including lighting, structural support, and a backdrop of irregularly-shaped marble tilework in line with Cantini's original vision.

The installation work is now complete, and the mosaics can be viewed by the public in their new location.

Cantini Mosaic
Cantini Mosaic Panorama

Full length views of the mosaics in their original location, © Kaela Speicher Photography.

Cantini Mosaic Public Meeting, August 2 2021

Cover image on this page © Kaela Speicher Photography.